How Do I Practice Music EffectivelyOct 17, 2023
Let’s paint this amazing scenario:
You want to learn how to play music at a high level. You understand that you must practice consistently and you have to create the time in your daily life to work on your musical skills. You get a private teacher and you come up with a list of things to work on). Maybe you even know how to really practice and perhaps you’re even hip enough to know about The Triangle Of Awesomeness. You’ve gotten compelling reasons to practice, and you have gotten rid of all negative associations that you have linked to practicing. You’re even totally cool with how long it’ll take to become a great musician.
With all these things in order, it looks like you’re all set to build your skills and become the musician you’ve always dreamed you could be.
Until, that is, you sit down and actually start to practice.
See, at this point, you’re pretty set with what to practice, but it’s how you practice that’ll either make you an amazing player or frustrate you to the point of quitting. This is what we teach our Practice Warriors in our Masterclass, which we have used to help thousands of musicians from all over the world to become great musicians. Yes, you should become a member today! Yes, this is a shameless plug!
But since you’re here now reading my little words, let me give you a few things to think about when it comes to practicing. In a word, it’s all about being effective.
If you do practice effectively, you will make massive progress in your playing in a relatively short amount of time. If you are not practicing effectively, you are truly wasting your time. Even if you practice every day, your ability to be effective in your efforts really makes all the difference in the results.
Short of becoming a Practice Warriors member, let me hip you to the top three things you can do to practice more effectively.
1. Get Rid Of ALL Distractions
This is a biggie, and it’s usually the thing that keeps people from practicing effectively right off the bat. If you are practicing correctly, you should be working on things you are not yet good at. This means you will need to have intense and focused attention on the tasks at hand.
Read those words again: Intense and focused attention!!
The more you are able to focus on what you are doing, the more effectively you’ll be able to learn and apply new musical skills. Remember, ‘intense’ and ‘focused’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘difficult’ or ‘strained’. You can easily be joyously focused and intense. It just means that you will have nothing else distracting you or taking your focus away from what you are working on.
How can you rid yourself of distractions right off the bat?
*Create a small, quiet place in your home that is clean and free from distracting clutter.
*Let the people in your home know that you need this quiet time for your studies. Get them on your team!
*Use the bathroom beforehand, and maybe have a refreshment handy (non-alcoholic, please!). Basically, you DON’T want to leave your space once you get in it!
*Turn off ALL electronics that you aren’t actively using for practicing. If you use your smart phone for practicing tools (i.e. tuner, metronome, recording device, etc.), make sure you set it to “Do Not Disturb” or turn off your notifications.
If you simply do these four things, you’ll have created a fantastic practice space that is free from distractions. Distractions are the mortal enemy of the Practice Warrior!
2. Know What You Are Practicing Before You Practice
When most people sit down to practice, they sometimes don’t know what they should be working on. Sometimes, folks will just practice what they feel like playing in the moment. This is a BIG mistake!
If you want to be effective at practicing, you have to know exactly what you should be working on before you even sit in your practice space. What do I mean by ‘exactly’? How about this:
*You’re learning a scale - What scale is it? How many octaves can you play it in? How fast (beats per minute) can you play it? What specific starting note are you working on? What specific scale exercise are you working on (intervals, sequences, improvising, etc.)?
*You’re working on reading a piece of music - What page are you on? What specific measures have you mastered? What specific measures are kicking your butt? How fast did you play it yesterday? How far can you play the piece before making a mistake? Have you incorporated the dynamic markings?
*You’re learning your favorite pop tune - Can you play it up to speed? If not, what speed (beats per minute) are you comfortable at? Can you play it along with the recording with no mistakes? What specific sections are giving you trouble? Does your timing need work?
Obviously, this level of effective practicing can only be achieved if you write all of this information down in some form of a Practice Log. If you know exactly what you worked on the day before, you’ll then know exactly what you need to work on today. You don’t waste any time at all, and you stay consistent with what you are practicing. Which leads us to my third tip…
3. Stick To Only A Few Topics
If you don’t say consistent with what you are working on, you’ll never really master anything. Many people feel that, if they work on many different skills, they will become a well-rounded and highly-skilled musician. This could be true up to a point.
If you work on too many skills, however, you’re not really excelling at any of them. Plus, unless you have hours and hours in your daily life to practice, you won’t be able to stay consistent with any particular skill. That is not practicing effectively…at all!
It’s best to stick to working on 1 to 4 things consistently. This way, you can focus on these topics and consistently build up your skills. You can’t do that if you bounce around to many different things to practice. Pick a couple of skills you know you need to work on, and practice those things every…single…day. After a few weeks, you should start to see some real results.
It’s important to know that you don’t need a lot to time to practice. It’s more important that you practice the same skills consistently day after day. Your muscle memory will improve. Your motor skills will improve. Your memorization will improve. ‘Consistency’ and ‘effectiveness’ are truly bosom buddies!
…and there you have it! Three awesome tips to get you practicing more efficiently, which means you’ll be making more progress in less time than you ever thought possible. Good luck!
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